Administrative Agency Issues
What Is Administrative Law?
Law that governs the activities, powers and procedures of government agencies. This also includes the rules and administrative decisions agencies can make. In Florida, the law is pursuant to the Florida Administrative Procedure Act in Chapter 120 of Florida Statutes.
The Florida Administrative Procedure Act is the legislative process by which agencies can exercise their power granted to them by the legislature via laws. The act outlines rule and decision making processes for Florida’s agencies. According to the act, it is intended to provide a “check and balance” function by increasing administrative agency accountability to the Florida legislature and citizens.
What Is an “Agency” Under Florida Law?
Each Florida state department and each of its subunits are considered agencies. Any state, county, district, authority, or municipal officer, department, division, board, bureau, commission, or other separate unit of government created or established by law including, for the purposes of this chapter, the Commission on Ethics, the Public Service Commission, and the Office of Public Counsel, and any other public or private agency, person, partnership, corporation, or business entity acting on behalf of any public agency. Fla. Stat. §119.011(2).
An agency action includes a rule or its equivalent, an order or its equivalent, the denial of a petition to adopt a rule or to issue an order, and the denial of a request for the minimum public information required to be available by Fla. Stat. Ch. 120.
What Does The Florida Administrative Procedure Act Cover?
The Florida Administrative Procedure Act located in Chapter 120 of Florida Statutes, covers complex topics such as the Internal Revenue Code while also discussing matters related to professional licenses, environmental permitting and student education plans.
What Is The Process of Administrative Litigation Under Florida Law?
The need for administrative litigation occurs when an agency action triggers the need for an administrative hearing. Pursuant to Fla. Stat. §120.54(7), “agency action” as “the whole or part of a rule or order, or the equivalent, or the denial of a petition to adopt a rule or issue an order. The term also includes any denial of a request made. Florida administrative law also addresses rulemaking, changes to both adopted and adopted rules, standing issues and judicial review.
Elements to Administrative Order Proceedings
In reviewing an administrative order, Florida court are limited to determining:
- Whether procedural due process has been accorded,
- Whether the essential elements of law have been observed, and
- Whether the administrative findings are supported by competent, substantial evidence.
Combs v. State, 436 So. 2d 93 (Fla. 1983).
What Does an Administrative Lawsuit Look Like?
An administrative lawsuit, or administrative appeal is a legal process where a party challenges an agency’s decision, rule or action in a court of law. The procedural process for an administrative appeal, or administrative review may vary by state or jurisdiction but the general administrative lawsuit may look like:
- Hire an attorney: if you think you may have a claim against an administrative agency it is recommended you seek legal help. You will need an attorney’s case review and help with filing the litigation.
- Exhaustion of administrative remedies: you want to consider all administrative remedies available. An attorney has the knowledge regarding all available administrative remedies and can help exhaust them before bringing your potential case to court. An attorney can help navigate the agency’s internal procedures and/or appeal process before initiating the lawsuit. This is not something you should try to do on your own without the help of someone who understands the process.
- Filing a notice of appeal: after exhausting administrative remedies, a party seeking review must file a Notice of Appeal with the appropriate court.
- Service: the party initiating the lawsuit will serve its notice of appeal to the administrative agency involved.
- Pleadings and Filings: both parties will have the opportunity to file pleadings, motions and legal arguments.
- Discovery (optional): parties may engage in discovery process. This is often a more limited process for administrative lawsuits compared to that of other lawsuit types.
- Hearing: there may be an administrative hearing where both parties present their arguments before an administrative law judge.
- Decision: after the judge considers the arguments, the court will apply their standard of review to the agency’s decision. The court will then issue their decision accordingly. The court may affirm, reverse, modify or remand the case back to the agency for further proceedings.
- Finality and Appeal: The court’s decision may be final or may be up for appeal. Whether it is subject to further appeal will depend on the jurisdiction and agency involved.
What Can I Do Regarding My Administrative Agency Issue?
- Understand administrative agencies: you can research and familiarize yourself with the agencies which may be relevant to your case, these may include the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) etc.
- Read and familiarize yourself with the Florida Administrative Procedure Act (APA): this governs procedures for administrative hearings, outlines rules, regulations for hearings and rule making and all other agency actions. Understanding the APA can significantly help you in the administrative process.
- Hire legal representation: hiring an attorney to review your potential case, help you understand the law and guide you through the administrative process or administrative litigation process is highly suggested.
Why Should I Hire an Attorney for My Florida Administrative Agency Issue?
- Legal advice: attorneys who specialize in administrative law have specific knowledge of the laws and experience to back it. They understand specific rules, procedures and the requirements of the various Florida agencies. They can also give you an individualized case assessment regarding potential legal issues or hurdles along the way.
- Guidance and Representation: an attorney can help guide you through the process of administrative proceedings such as complying with necessary rules, procedures, documents, filings and deadlines.
- Consider administrative remedies available: an attorney has the knowledge regarding all available administrative remedies and can help exhaust them before bringing your potential case to court. An attorney can help navigate the agency’s internal procedures and/or appeal process before initiating the lawsuit. This is not something you should try to do on your own without the help of someone who understands the process.
- Documentation drafting: an attorney can help gather and organize relevant documents for your case.
- Time and stress: a well versed and experienced administrative law attorney will be able to review your issue and alleviate your stress.
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